Fri 15 Nov Sol 5
by Guy Murphy
This morning Andrew and Jennifer ventured out on an EVA to continue sampling at the micro-meteorite site I visited yesterday. Unusually, they were buzzed by an unknown drone. I stayed at the Hab for the morning catching up the admin of life, planting further seeds in the Greenhab early afternoon. Late in the day, we undertook a simulated emergency rescue, which I will describe in more detail tomorrow.
The MDRS is located at an elevation of approximately 1300 metres in a semi-arid climatic zone. It is in part of the Colorado plateau that is a cold desert ecology rather than a hot desert. Not all deserts are hot, though it is much warmer here in summer. It is now near the end of autumn (or fall). While there is a sprinking of brown, dead vegetation in a few localities, the area around the campus is completely devoid of green. Outside, there are no natural sounds at all. No birds, only an occasional insect to be found after a long search.
The weird mounded landscape is formed of pale, powdery swellinbg clays known as bentonite at its lower reaches rather than sand. Start walking up the an incline, and the seemingly firm crust gives way, and your foot will fall into a large moving and sliding depression filling with fine powder. It seldom rains here, but when it does the landscape transforms to slushy clay than can barely be driven upon, let alone walked across for any distance. Dry or wet, it it hard not to carry it into the Hab airlocks on your feet or on your clothes, where it then trails into the lower interior level and starts to gradually coat flat surfaces of the upper level as it gets churned up as dust.
The problems with dust management Crew 215 are encountering mirror those early explorers will face on Mars. Martian dust is extremely fine. It has been generated by billions of years of aeolian activity, having being blown around and abraded in a dry environment. It is likely to stick to the external surfaces of space suits and follow them inside through airlocks. It may be activated by static electricty. Andrew and Jennifer did their best to shake off all dust this morning, but a small amount always comes in.